Summary of The Drover’s Wife by Henry Lawson

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Introduction:

In ”The Drover’s Wife” Henry Lawson acknowledges the hardship of Australian women living in the bush.this story was unique in its time, as a female protagonist was uncommon. Stories from this period focused on the men living in the outback; the drover’s and their struggle, they dismissed the life of the woman waiting at home suffering in silence during their husband’s long periods of absence.Lawson sheds light on the life of such woman, allowing the reader insight into their often heroic actions as he creates authentic depictions of their existence in the bush and their fight to make it a home. In this story we learn about one such woman, struggling against all odds to protect her family against the elements and being shaped by the landscape that she inhabits.


Summary of The Drover’s Wife:

The story opens with the drover’s wife and her children alone in their house in the bush. One of the children discovers a snake and calls for the mother. The bush-woman reaches for her stick and rushes to her children, but meanwhile the snake hides in a hole between the wall and floor. As the snake disappears the woman puts the children to sleep and waits up with her dog Alligator for the reptile to come out. As she waits, she starts to recall several dangerous situations she had to face throughout the years when her husband was away with the sheep. She fought bush-fire, flood, dangerous men, and even illness that spread among the cattle. She is mostly content, but still feels isolated, dreaming of the fashion pictures in her ladies’ magazine.

By the morning she runs out of candles and gets up to go get more wood to keep the fire burning. She seizes a stick, pulls it out and the whole woodpile collapses, injuring her, and she begins to cry. She had paid an aboriginal man to stack it for her and assumed it was actually full of wood. She takes out a handkerchief to wipe away her tears, but she pokes her eyes instead as the handkerchief is full of holes. This ridiculous situation makes her laugh.

It is near daylight, but the bush-woman and her dog are still on the watch for the snake. Suddenly, the snake comes out of a large crack in the partition slabs. The dog starts to chase the snake and eventually kills it. The woman lifts the reptile on the point of her stick and throws it into the fire. Tommy, the eldest boy, wakes up and notices the tears in the eyes of his mother. He promises never to go droving.


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Characters in The Drover’s Wife:

The drover’s wife is the central character in the story. She inhabits the Australian bush together with her four “ragged, dried-up looking children,” and has to encounter various hardships during her husband’s absence. She is lonely and poor, but remains strong, dreaming of fashion and another life. As she waits up for the snake, she recalls various dangerous situations she had to face in her life. It is apparent she is accustomed to the hardships that life brings her, and that she is capable of taking care of herself and the children. The snake that represents another threat is also eventually defeated. She has no other option than to continue being strong and brave; however, her tears at the end of the story suggest that even she has her limits and that these limits may be reached some day.

The Drover- He is often away droving, although he had wanted to give this profession up to be a farmer. He takes care of his family as best he can and is a decent husband, though his wife knows he sometimes sleeps with other women. His fate is unknown at the end of the story.

Theme of The Drover’s Wife:

It is a story the lives of people in the Outback are molded by the environment so that they, too, become hardened, desiccated, silent, and of necessity even predatory. However, in spite of all this, the occasional blossoms of the bush have their equivalents in the tender, soft, beautiful, yet temporary moments of life of the drovers and squatters.

Solved Questions from The Drover’s Wife:

1.Is the drover’s wife winning or losing her battle with the bush?

To some extent it looks like the drover’s wife is losing. After all, the farm failed; droughts, floods, and cattle flu devastated the family’s holdings. Snakes and bullocks menace them. Storms pummel them. Their abode is humble, their provisions limited. However, the drover’s wife wins her battle with the snake just as she won her battle with the bullock and the grass fire. She is, despite everything the bush throws at her, still there. There is still a house, still a family, and still a woman prepared to battle with the bush until it kills her.

2.Is it likely that Tommy will keep his promise not to go droving?

Tommy is fiercely independent and strong-willed; if he says something he is committed to it. He also loves his mother and sees what being alone in the bush can do to someone. On the other hand, he will probably be forced into it for lack of other opportunities. It is unlikely he will escape to the city. It is hard to know whether nature will cooperate and allow him to farm; his father tried this and failed. Life in the bush is difficult and requires a person to overcome immense odds just to survive. Tommy will probably have to be a drover as well, though we do not wish that fate for him.

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